1. Home
  2. Countries
  3. United States
  4. Oregon


Map of Oregon
Locator Map of Oregon

captain james cook People arriving over the Bering Strait from Mongolia about 13,000 years ago first populated the Pacific Northwest. Spanish and British sailors are believed to have sighted the Oregon coast as early as the 1500s. It is estimated that there were 125 distinct Northwestern tribes in the area at that time.

In the year 1775 Spanish Captain Don Bruno de Heceta sailed from Mexico all the way to the Canadian border, subsequently claiming all of the lands he visited for Spain. In 1790 Spain opened this huge territory to trappers and explorers of other nations, mainly Great Britain and the United States. British Captain James Cook charted some of the coastline in 1778 while seeking a water route (the Northwest Passage) that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

American Captain John Gray discovered the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792 and named it after his ship. He established a trade in sea otter pelts. President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark overland to seek the Northwest Passage, and although they found the passage did not exist, they laid claim to the territory. Their expedition, along with Captain Gray's explorations, gave the United States a large stake in the land.

john jacob astor Britain's Hudson's Bay Colony established the first regional economy based on fur trading. The first capital of the Oregon Territory was built in Oregon City, at the northern end of the Willamette Valley. John Jacob Astor founded his fur depot in Astoria in 1811. The European fashion of beaver hats fueled the trapping and trading activities in Oregon and nearly decimated the population of beavers.

In 1819 Spain ceded their earlier claims on this land to the United States, although the British disputed it and the area existed for several decades under contentious joint control.

The Oregon Trail: A New Frontier

With the opening of the Oregon Trail in 1841, pioneers settled in the fertile Willamette Valley. Gold discoveries in the high country and along the coast led to further settlement. However, these provoked tragic wars with the Native Americans, which concluded with the Indians surrendering of all their lands.

Settlers met in 1843 to address the menace of wild animals. These "Wolf Meetings" led to a drafting of a constitution and the formation of Oregon's first government, which included both American and British participation.

james k polk President James K. Polk campaigned in 1844 under the slogan "54-40 or fight, "contending that the northern border of the US territory should be at the southern edge of the Russian territory at latitude 54°40". The dispute was finally settled diplomatically in 1846 with the Treaty of Oregon and the northern border was set at the 49th parallel - the modern border between Canada and the United States.

The Oregon Country was made a U.S. Territory in 1848 and the territorial government met in 1849 in Oregon City. In 1853 Washington Territory was created north of the Columbia River. Oregon was granted statehood in 1859 as the 33rd state, with the capital established in Salem.

The railroads, which were built in the 1870s, allowed the agricultural economy a way to transport products without direct water access.

Oregon Landscape

cape meares Located on the Pacific Coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada and Idaho to the east, Oregon is a vast land of stunning sceneries. The Pacific coastline offers awesome rocky windswept beaches; the Cascade Mountain Range is home to dense evergreen rainforests and Hawaiian-style volcanoes, while the immense Douglas firs and Redwoods along the rainy Oregon coast reflect a natural beauty that's hard to put into words.

The Beaver State enjoys a mild climate, heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean, especially in the western part of the state. Periods of extreme hot and cold are more common east of the mountains, with the Alvord Desert getting very small amounts of annual rainfall.

Oregonians are widely-respected for their environmental concerns as they have passed many laws to protect the land and the ocean.

Oregon Today

Oregon's economy is as diverse as its landscapes. Today lumber, wood and paper products are Oregon's biggest industries. It also has one of the world's largest salmon fishing and canning industries. Agricultural products include peppermint, berries, hops, and vegetables. The cities and Oregon coast are home to a vibrant hi-tech industry.

The Willamette Valley is Oregon's breadbasket and wine production has become a significant industry in the state. The world headquarters of Nike, Inc. are located here two of the largest mail order companies in the country. Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood and Portland are the state's major tourist attractions.

Framed by breathtaking vistas of Mount Hood, Portland, Oregon's largest city, is known as "The City of Roses," because its climate has proven ideal for rose cultivation and the city has many stunning public rose gardens.

Oregon famous people include founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, actor River Phoenix, aviator and World War II fighter ace Marion Carl and cartoonist Matt Groening of The Simpsons fame. The very diversity and beauty of this magnificent state is what makes Oregon a place to remember.

Latest by WorldAtlas